JohnHughMeans
Means, John Hugh

Means, John Hugh

August 18, 1812–September 1, 1862

Active in the South Carolina militia, he achieved the rank of brigadier general. After serving a single term in the state House of Representatives from 1844 to 1845, Means established himself as one of the leading fire-eaters in the South Carolina upcountry and vocal advocate of secession, a position put forth as a delegate to the Nashville Convention in 1850.

Governor. Born on August 18, 1812, in Fairfield District, Means was the son of Boston native Thomas Means and Sarah Milling. Means studied at Mount Zion College in Winnsboro and was graduated from South Carolina College in 1832. On January 24, 1833, he married Sarah Rebecca Stark. The couple had two children. Means became a successful planter in Fairfield District. Reaching maturity in the heady days of nullification, Means became a convert to the gospel of states’ rights at an early age. Active in the South Carolina militia, he achieved the rank of brigadier general. After serving a single term in the state House of Representatives from 1844 to 1845, Means established himself as one of the leading fire-eaters in the South Carolina upcountry and vocal advocate of secession, a position put forth as a delegate to the Nashville Convention in 1850.

In the campaigns for the state legislature in the fall of 1850, radicals won control of both houses of the General Assembly and elected Means governor on December 13. In his 1851 message to the assembly, Means baldly declared that “the Federal government, which was instituted for our protection and welfare . . . has directed all its energies to the destruction of that very institution upon which our very vitality depends.” The Means administration set about to prepare South Carolina for the possibility of secession and conflict with the federal government. He urged that the state’s military establishment be strengthened, and the legislature appropriated $350,000 for the purpose of arming the state and placing South Carolina in a defensive position. In addition, brigade encampments for the state militia were reestablished, and Means organized state forces into ten infantry and five cavalry brigades.

Other actions by Means sought to encourage economic development. In 1852, thanks in part to a strong endorsement from the governor, the politically controversial Bank of the State of South Carolina had its charter extended through 1871. Means also supported the allocation of state funds for railroad development, declaring, “the State cannot spend too much money in the construction of Railroads, providing they are judiciously located, and economically built.” However, by the close of his term in 1852, calls for immediate secession had died down, and the fire-eater Means was succeeded as governor by the more moderate John L. Manning.

Means retired to private life but reemerged in December 1860 to sign the Ordinance of Secession. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Means helped organize an infantry unit and was made colonel of the Seventeenth South Carolina Regiment. During the Second Battle of Manassas (August 29–30, 1862), Means was mortally wounded by a shell fragment. He died on September 1 and was buried in the Means family cemetery in Fairfield District.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Means, John Hugh
  • Coverage August 18, 1812–September 1, 1862
  • Author
  • Keywords Governor, Active in the South Carolina militia, he achieved the rank of brigadier general, leading fire-eaters in the South Carolina upcountry and vocal advocate of secession,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date May 22, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 15, 2022
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